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May 2005 news and reviews

May 31
Kodak confirm SLR/n and SLR/c discontinued
Kodak has today confirmed that the DCS Pro SLR/n and DCS Pro SLR/c digital SLRs have been discontinued and will no longer be manufactured. In our conversation with Kodak Pro we were assured that existing owners will continue to be supported through 2008 and that this will include firmware and Photodesk updates if required. Kodak will continue to develop CCD and CMOS image sensors and this announcement does not affect their consumer digital cameras. Kodak was keen to stress that this does not mark the end of Kodak digital SLR's but that they wished to concentrate on market segments which are more profitable.

Following several delays the Leica Digital-Modul-R is set to ship on June 15, two years after its development was first announced. An official letter was sent to Leica users over the weekend announcing the delivery date. The date was put back earlier this month due to 'software problems'. Mario Thurnherr, manager of Leica Camera's Photo Division, says, "Our customers had to wait longer than planned for the unique digital solution from Leica, but are now rewarded with an outstanding product." Lets hope it really is worth the wait.

The Art of RAW Conversion

Digital Outback Photo has announced its latest E-book, The Art of RAW Conversion, is now available to download for $39.95. The 290-page book authored by Uwe Steinmueller and Jürgen Gulbins explains how to get the best quality from Photoshop CS2 and a number of different RAW converters as well as understanding DNG, basic color management and how to remove noise, chromatic aberration and lens distortions. An upgrade from DOP2000 is available for $27.95.

Canon posts three D-SLR firmware updates
Canon has today posted firmware updates for the EOS 350D (Digital Rebel XT), EOS-1D Mark II and EOS-1Ds Mark II. Each update addresses slightly different issues, in the case of the EOS 350D update this firmware includes a fix for 'extreme underexposure when using some lenses', an auto power off issue and an incorrect flash WB issue. The EOS-1D Mark II and EOS-1Ds Mark II updates fix a camera hang issue which could lead to a loss of buffered images (this appears to be the problem discussed in an advisory issued two weeks ago).
May 27
AgfaPhoto files for insolvency

After years of struggle, the writing could finally be on the wall for AgfaPhoto as it files for insolvency. The consumer imaging business announced 4,000 redundancies in 2001 to concentrate efforts on digital imaging. However, three months previously it had decided to abandon production of digital cameras. Agfa-Gevaert sold AgfaPhoto to a group of investors in a management buy out/in in November, 2004, but still provides distribution, order fulfillment, after sales and other services to the company until the end of the year.

May 24
Samsung Digimax i5/#1

Samsung has launched a teaser on its Korean website for the launch of an ultra-slim camera called simply #1, which is a dead ringer for the Nikon Coolpix S1. At 17.3mm the five million pixel camera is only just slightly thinner than the Nikon but has the same rounded corners, 2.5-inch screen and almost exactly the same control layout. The top plate features a safety flash (SF) button, which is said to enhance image clarity and colour (when there is insufficient light) without using flash. According to the mini trailer, it is due for launch on June 1. UPDATE: The Samsung has already been launched in some countries, including Germany, as the i5.

Just posted! Samsumg Digimax V700 review
Just posted! The Digimax V700 is Samsung's second 7 million pixel camera, and the first to be widely available worldwide. Despite a wealth of photographic controls, MPEG movies and a compact metal body it is considerably less expensive than most of its 'big name' competitors, but is it able to hold its own in an increasingly crowded sector of the market? Check out our concise review after the link to find out...
Kodak EasyShare One delayed

Kodak has delayed the launch of the unique Wi-Fi-enabled EasyShare One camera until October, reports the Wall Street Journal. It was originally scheduled for launch in June. A Kodak spokesman said, "Kodak is making significant, innovative advances to create the EasyShare-One camera. We are taking the necessary time to ensure the best-possible customer experience, making certain that all of the new system components interoperate as expected." The four megapixel camera has a tilt-and-swivel, 3-inch touch-screen LCD, that is designed to change the emphasis from 'point and shoot to point and share,' says Kodak.

Scientists at Canada's Universite Laval have invented a lens that is five times thinner than a piece of paper and can zoom without using mechanical parts. The lens is created by adding a small quantity of photosensitive material to a liquid crystal cell. When a weak electrical current is applied, the crystals realign differently from those in the periphery and thus take on the shape and behavior of a lens. The researchers have been able to modify the lens’ focal distance from 1.6 to 8 meters in a few milliseconds by increasing the voltage from 1.5 to 4.5 volts.

May 23

ABSoft has announced upgrades to its noise reduction software program Neat Image for both Windows and Mac. The new versions of Neat Image are said to significantly improve quality and efficiency of noise reduction, provide stronger integration with the latest image editors and enhanced usability. V5.0 for Windows and v3.0 for Mac plug-ins are compatible with Adobe Photoshop CS2. Other new features include profile quality indicators, improved image viewers plus preset matching, new command line format and optimizations of the underlying algorithms.

May 20
Sigma APO 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG/HSM

Sigma has announced new addition to its digital optimized DG range of zoom lenses in the form of the APO 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG/HSM. This fast telephoto zoom sports a fixed F2.8 aperture throughout the range, HSM technology for high speed silent focus and four SLD (Special Low Dispersion) glass elements. A new 'digitally optimized' coating is claimed to minimize flare and ghosting when used on a D-SLR, and the lens will be available in Sigma AF, Canon EF, Nikon D, Konica Minolta and Pentax AF mounts.

Olympus Camedia D-435 / C-180
Olympus has today announced the five megapixel Camedia D-435 (C-180). Aimed at first time digital camera users, the fixed lens D-435 has a built-in Help Guide that provides a brief description of each function and shooting mode. Despite only having a 1.5-inch LCD, Olympus has decided against the inclusion of an optical viewfinder and has, rather bizarrely, positioned the on/off switch on the front of the camera. It will be available in August priced US$169.99 (approx. €135.52).
Problems with Canon SLRs and Lexar cards
Both Canon and Lexar have issued media alerts which describe issues discovered between several Canon digital SLRs and Lexar Pro 80x CompactFlash cards. Lexar is describing the problem as 'a lost image condition', which they say occurs only in extreme circumstances and can occur with other brands' cards too. As well as highlighting the Lexar problem, the Canon alert describes a problem with the EOS-1D(s) Mark II, which can lead to the loss of images still buffered. Firmware updates to fix these issues should be avaiilable by the end of this month. Full details enclosed.
May 19
Sigma 50-500mm f4-6.3 EX DG/HSM lens

Hot on the heels of the optic launched yesterday Sigma has announced the ultra-telephoto 50-500mm F4-6.3 EX DG/HSM lens, which is also optimized for digital SLRs. It has a new lens coating which reduces flare and ghost and also creates an optimum color balance. It also features HSM (Hyper Sonic Motor)which provides a quiet high speed AF function, a zoom lock switch and has four pieces of SLD (Special Low Dispersion) glass for correcting color aberration. It costs £899 and will fit SLRs with Sigma, Canon, Konica Minolta, Pentax and Nikon-D mounts.

May 18
Sigma 180mm f3.5 APO EX DG HSM

Sigma has today announced a telephoto macro lens optimized for use with digital cameras. The Sigma 180mm f3.5 APO EX DG lens has a life-sized reproduction ratio and is an HSM model, which guarantees fast and silent auto focusing as well as full time manual focus. It is compatible with Sigma, Canon, Nikon-D, Pentax and Konica Minolta D-SLRs and will be priced £549.

Just posted! Sony Cyber-shot DSC-S90 review
Just posted! The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-S90, one of a couple of new 4 megapixel 'budget' cameras announced at PMA in February, offers a fairly comprehensive spec - including a large 2.5-inch screen, lots of scene modes and a fully manual exposure option. Find out how it compares against some stiff competition in our concise review....
Minox break free from Leica

Minox has broken all ties with its German co-partner and ailing company Leica Camera AG. Optical and miniaturization specialists Minox was taken over by general manager Thorsten Kortemeier in 2001 when he acquired 51% of the Minox partnership capital, leaving Leica with 49%. Minox was launched four years ago and currently produces digital cameras including the famous miniature Digital Classic Camera Leica M3, binoculars, compact cameras, 35mm cameras plus windwatches.

Nikon Coolpix S2
Nikon has today announced its second ultra-slim camera, the weatherproof Coolpix S2. It is very similar to the Coolpix S1; the only differences seem to be purely cosmetic. The most obvious difference on the 5.1 megapixel camera is that it features a sliding lens. It will only be available in silver and is slightly bigger and heavier than the S1. It will also have a different docking station (supplied). Other similarities include the same control layout, a 2.5-inch LCD, SD memory slot with 12MB internal memory and 35-105 mm equiv. zoom lens. It will be available in early summer priced around US$429 (approx €448/£299).
May 17
Kodak EasyShare V550 and V530 Zoom
Kodak has today announced a new series of cameras with the launch of the the EasyShare V530 and V550 Zoom (pictured right). The Canon IXUS lookalikes are smaller than a deck of cards, boast five megapixels and despite only having a 3x optical zoom, incorporate image stabilization. Aside from minor cosmetic differences and the size of the LCD, technically they are pretty similar. The V550 has a 2.5-inch screen and is available in black and silver, while the V530 has a 2-inch screen and comes in Absolute Pink, Red Shimmer, Midnight Black and Silver Essence colors. The V550 will be available in June priced US$399, and for US$50 less you can get the V530, which will be available in July. Both cameras come with the new EasyShare Photo Frame Dock 2.
Nikon D70 firmware 2.0
As promised back in April when the D70s was announced Nikon has now released firmware version 2.0 for the D70. This new firmware adds several improvements which were introduced with the D70s; improved 5-area AF performance (especially continuous tracking), updated menu design and layout, new in-camera setup page for PictBridge compatible printers.
May 13
Pentax Optio SVi

Pentax has today announced another addition to the Optio range with the five megapixel SVi. An update to the SV, it also has a 5x optical zoom, 1.8-inch LCD, impressive 3cm macro function and 320x240 movie mode. The only difference appears to the be the fact that the aluminum alloy-bodied camera has an 'enhanced' grip achieved by placing a resin element on the front right hand side. A battery stand which charges the batteries in camera, plus an additional set is also available. The Pentax Optio SVi will be available in June priced £249.

May 12

An official letter from Leica confirms that the Digital-Modul-R is to be delayed, despite expectations that the 10 megapixel digital back would be available in the next few days. Leica says it is 'working hard to resolve a few last software problems'. Although the 'problems' do not impair the basic function of the module they have to be remedied before it is fully ready for production. Many people have already placed orders for the module, which was scheduled for release this month. Leica urges customers not to overreact and says that it will be worth the wait.

Olympus Stylus 800/mju Digital 800
Olympus has today announced the first 8 million pixel camera in the Stylus range (mju Digital). The Stylus 800, which is available in silver or dark blue, remains weatherproof like its predecessors and now offers new Bright Capture technology, which optimises the camera's setting in certain scene modes and brightens the image in the 2.5-inch LCD in low light for easier composition. It also boasts a built-in Guide Function, which shows the recommended use of various functions on the LCD. Other features include 19 scene modes, a 3x optical zoom, 3cm macro mode and 4 fps continuous shooting. It will be available in July for an estimated street price of £350.
May 11
Kodak takes number one sales spot in US

After all the bad news that has beset Kodak in the last year, things appear to be on the up as the company took the number one slot for sales in US in the first quarter of this year. It shipped 900,000 point and shoot digital cameras, a 41% increase on sales this time last year, according to a market research company. Kodak is followed by second-placed Canon (850,000 units), which recorded a whopping 72% increase, and perennial front-runner Sony was ranked third with sales of 800,000 units. UPDATE: Chief executive Dan Carp will step down as president in June, although he will remain in the post until he retires in January 2006. He will be succeeded by Kodak president Antonio Perez, who joined Kodak in April 2003 after 25 years at HP.

Three new Pentax compacts
Pentax has announced three new additions to the Optio range - two five megapixel models and four million pixel camera. The five megapixel Pentax Optio S5z has an aluminum alloy exterior, a 2.5-inch LCD and employs the sliding lens system, so although it has a 3x zoom, it remains compact at 3.3x2.2x0.8 inches. The other two Optios, the S55 (pictured) and S45, are for absolute beginners and offer five and four million pixels respectively. Both have a 3x zoom and 2.5-inch LCD. All cameras will be ship in June, as will the sixth DA lens 50 - 200mm F4 - 5.6, announced at PMA.
May 9
Just posted! Fujifilm FinePix F10 Zoom review
Just posted! The FinePix F10 is the first Fujifilm camera to use a new 6 megapixel Super CCD sensor (with no interpolated output) and one of the first compacts to offer a usable ISO 1600 high sensitivity setting at full resolution. It also boasts fast operation, 500-shot battery life and a 2.5-inch LCD. But is it good enough to give the latest 7 megpixel compacts a run for their money? Find out in our concise review.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX8
Panasonic has today announced an update to the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX7 with the FX8. The only difference between the identical cameras, is that the FX8 doubles the battery life of its predecessor with a new lithium ion battery, which increases the capacity by 162% thanks to the new Venus Engine PLUS. The five megapixel model also boasts quickened AF, three new scene modes, VGA movie recording plus MEGA OIS, the impressive proprietary image stabilization function. Like the FX7, the FX8 is availabe in silver, black, blue and pink.
Konica Minolta DiMAGE X60
Konica Minolta has today announced a upgrade to the X50 in the shape of the five megapixel DiMAGE X60. The newest addition to the X range appears more sturdy in comparison to the X50 and the reflective and brushed metal sliding lens lends it a more sophisticated look. This entry-level camera does away with a viewfinder in favor of a 2.5-inch LCD, which dominates the rear. It also boasts a 5 cm macro mode, 0.5-second start-up time and Automatic Digital Subject Program Selection. It wil be available at the end of May priced US$349.99 (approx €269).
May 6
Adobe Camera RAW v3.1 and DNG Converter v3.1
Adobe has today announced version 3.1 of Camera RAW, which now supports the Canon EOS Rebel XT (EOS 350D/EOS Kiss Digital N), Nikon D2X, Olympus EVOLT E-300 and the Olympus C-7070 Wide Zoom. This new version of the Camera RAW plug-in replaces the original plug-in that was installed with Adobe Photoshop CS2 and Photoshop Elements 3.0 software. Adobe has also announced version 3.1 of its DNG Converter. DNG is a open standard that allows photographers to archive RAW files in a single format for easy cataloging and access in the future.
May 5
Kodak EasyShare Z760
Kodak has slipped out another camera today, which will join the Z series. The EasyShare Z760 boasts 6.1 million pixels, 3x optical zoom and 2.2-inch LCD screen. It also has 16 scene modes plus five color modes. It appears to have a less pronounced handgrip and Kodak has chosen to market this one in black; the rest of the range is silver. It is available this month priced US$449.95 (approx €347).
May 4
Three new Kodak EasyShare cameras
Kodak has quietly introduced three new C series cameras today. The EasyShare C360, C330 and C310 will join the C340 and C300 models, launched at PMA, to be sold as a package with the Kodak EasyShare Printer Dock Series 3. The C360, which tops the range, offers five megapixels, while the C330 and C310 both have a resolution of four million pixels. The C360 and C330 also boast 3x optical zooms and will retail for US$279 and US$179 respectively. The lower end C310 is priced US$139. Packages will range from US$239 to US$379.
May 3
Adobe launches stock photo service

Following the launch of the Photographer's Directory, Adobe is expanding further with the announcement of a royalty-free image library, called Adobe Stock Photos. The service provides a single destination point to access stock photography from Getty Images, Jupitermedia and Digital Vision to name a few and offers around 230,000 images. Accessed through Adobe Bridge, Adobe Stock Photos helps designers select, browse, preview, organize, label, and drag-and-drop imagery directly from within Adobe Creative Suite 2. It's currently available in Adobe's Creative Suite 2 Premium and Standard editions, including CS2 versions of Photoshop, GoLive, InDesign and Illustrator.

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